Baby Bathing Essentials

A few things come to mind when you’re first handed your new bundle of joy. One of the most common questions that new mothers have is whether they have to bath the newborn baby every day.

Considering several factors, the answer to this question is an emphatic no. In fact, newborn babies tend to develop rashes and dry skin from too many baths. Extremely cold weather conditions and the lack of a heater can be reason enough to stay clear of full baths. Perhaps until only recently, hospitals such as The Kenyatta Hospital, just as in some cultural beliefs, do not recommend actual dipping your baby in water until their umbilical cord stump heals and falls off. In such cases and until you feel comfortable with it, comfortable, consider topping and tailing.

What is Topping and Tailing?

Topping and tailing means cleaning the parts of your baby that necessarily need cleaning. These are usually the face, hands, neck and nappy area.

Topping and tailing is done during

  • Baby’s first few weeks before the umbilical cord has dried and fallen off
  • The cold and rainy weather and especially in cases where you do not have the means to warm the room.

Topping and Tailing Procedure

It’s important to set the room up as this minimizes unnecessary distractions that could leave your baby exposed or unattended.

Setting up the room– Ensure that the room is warm, at least 24 degrees Celsius because a baby’s tiny body is prone to losing heat very quickly. Where possible, use a heater or heat the bath water in the room you’ll use.

Eliminate distractions- This is basically anything that you feel may slow down the process, like the presence of other siblings.

Setting up the bath station- you will need:

  • A bowl of boiled cooled water. The water should feel warm on your wrist
  • Cotton wool
  • A bath towel
  • Diaper or nappy
  • Diaper or nappy cream
  • Clean clothes

Once ready, follow the following steps:

Step 1- Cleaning Baby’s Face

  • Undress your baby up to their diaper/nappy, wrap her in a bath towel and place them on a changing mat. Dip a swab of cotton wool in warm water then wipe the eyes from the nose outwardly. A fresh piece of cotton wool should be used for each eye.
  • Use another piece of cotton wool to clean your baby’s cheeks and forehead
  • Wipe behind your baby’s ears and over them. Don’t poke inside the ears. Use a separate piece of cotton for each ear.
  • Wipe around the baby’s mouth and nose.
  • Wipe under chin and in the neck creases using a new piece of cotton wool.

Step 2: Cleaning Babies Body

  • Remove the baby’s towel and use fresh pieces of cotton wool to wipe under each armpit.
  • Clean babies palm, fingers and between the fingers by unclenching their fists.
  • Wipe the baby’s stomach around the umbilical cord and pat dry.

Step 3: Cleaning Baby’s Genital Area, Buttocks and Legs

Baby girls-wipe from the front to back to avoid transferring bacteria from the anus to the vagina

  • Use fresh cotton wool for each swipe
  • Do not try and clean inside the vulva as this may cause infections
  • Lift baby’s ankles to wipe the bottom and back of the thighs, wipe feet and toes as well

Baby boys – clean surface creases of the baby’s penis. Do not try to push back the foreskin as it may tear.

  • Clean the scrotum as well
  • Lift the ankles so that their bottom is raised off the surface to wipe the baby’s buttocks. Wipe toes as well.

Best Times to Bath Your Child

Picking a time when you are least interrupted is usually best. Some mothers prefer to bathe their babies in the morning when they are most awake or in the evening as part of their bedtime routine.

Safe Bathing Tips

The following tips should be followed for the safe cleaning of your baby

  • Ensure the room is warm
  • The bath water should be comfortable warm
  • Always support your baby when wiping them
  • Planning well will ensure less exposure of your baby to the atmosphere.

What to Do if Your Baby is Afraid of Baths.

The following tips may help with baby bath fears

  • Only bath when the baby is well fed and rested
  • Stick to a routine
  • Keep the baby warm
  • Sing while bathing your baby



Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.


Last reviewed March 2019 

Sources: mypositiveparenting, parents, babycenter, babycenter

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